Control of thermoregulatory effectors by the autonomic nervous system is a critical component of rapid cold-defense responses, which are triggered by thermal information from the skin. However, the central autonomic mechanism driving thermoregulatory effector responses to skin thermal signals remains to be determined. Here, we examined the involvement of several autonomic brain regions in sympathetic thermogenic responses in brown adipose tissue (BAT) to skin cooling in urethane-chloralose-anesthetized rats by monitoring thermogenic [BAT sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) and BAT temperature], metabolic (expired CO(2)), and cardiovascular (arterial pressure and heart rate) parameters. Acute skin cooling, which did not reduce either rectal (core) or brain temperature, evoked increases in BAT SNA, BAT temperature, expired CO(2), and heart rate. Skin cooling-evoked thermogenic, metabolic, and heart rate responses were inhibited by bilateral microinjections of bicuculline (GABA(A) receptor antagonist) into the preoptic area (POA), by bilateral microinjections of muscimol (GABA(A) receptor agonist) into the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus (DMH), or by microinjection of muscimol, glycine, 8-OH-DPAT (5-HT(1A) receptor agonist), or kynurenate (nonselective antagonist for ionotropic excitatory amino acid receptors) into the rostral raphe pallidus nucleus (rRPa) but not by bilateral muscimol injections into the lateral/dorsolateral part or ventrolateral part of the caudal periaqueductal gray. These results implicate the POA, DMH, and rRPa in the central efferent pathways for thermogenic, metabolic, and cardiac responses to skin cooling, and suggest that these pathways can be modulated by serotonergic inputs to the medullary raphe.